I don’t know whose idea it was (probably the author) to put all the music detail on Pelecanos’ Hachette Books website, but I think it was a stroke of genius. I have a friend who’s said more than once, “I never listen to music.” For most of us, music is what we associate with the memories that are hard-wired in our brains. “Oh, man, that song was playing when I first met [insert name]!” Or, “Remember this? This was the first concert that you took me to.” Births, deaths, marriages, arrests and championships are all memorialized with music by somebody somewhere every second of every minute of every day.
Music, tied in with Pelecanos’ descriptions and the prose of the book, makes these places come alive, and it’s obvious that Pelecanos himself has lived that same music in these very places. (OK, OK, maybe not the crime scenes which frequent his books, or else he’d be writing his stories from a Greybar Hotel somewhere in the DC area.) The music is a central theme of all of Pelecanos’ books, and you’ll see it in his television shows, such as The Wire, and Treme, and movies, too. Oh, wait a minute! That’s one gimme that Granolaville hasn’t picked up on, if you can believe it. It’s a cash cow waiting to be born. And if Pelecanos has any sense — and he does — he should put out the films on his own (or arrange backers on his own), rather than let the fantasy world of Granolaville water down the stories and plots, or worse yet, add the typical Hollywood bells, whistles, and treacly over-production. Find an angel with noir-ish tastes, George, and the film will be a monster.
Pelecanos ties music to scenes in his books in a manner which adds authenticity and, more importantly, personality. To the characters, to the scene and to the overall story. Google can show you what an address looks like, but Google’s photo is sterile and antiseptic compared to the color, texture, and personality – life! – that Pelecanos adds to a neighborhood or street, or even a neighborhood diner or shoe store in the District of Columbia. [There ya go, Google. Be sure to give me credit when you adopt this idea.] The music he mentions throughout his books is clearly the music of his life. And the stories he writes are the music of our lives.